The search for Air France 447 has ended

by Jonathan on May 25, 2010

It’s all over. Investigators have ended the search for Air France flight 447’s flight data and voice recorders. Alain Guilldou, a spokesman for the BEA confirmed that the search for the wreckage and black boxes of AF447 was called off last night. The lease on the robot submarines onboard the Seabed Worker search vessel have run out and the robots will be returned to their owners in the United States.

The search will end with over 200 square miles of ocean floor left unexplored.

At this moment, there are no plans for another search.

Here is the article from Business Week:

May 25 (Bloomberg) — Investigators probing the crash of an Air France plane off Brazil last year ended their search for its flight recorders with 200 square miles of ocean floor unexplored after misinterpreted data sent them on a six-day detour.

The hunt for the so-called black boxes was called off last night as leases run out on the robot submarines carried by the search vessel Seabed Worker, Alain Guilldou, a spokesman for France’s BEA air-accident investigation bureau, said yesterday.

The ship’s sweep of a zone identified as the likely site of the Airbus SAS A330 wreck was put on hold after analysis of 10 month-old recordings made after the June 1 crash suggested it should switch to a site 40 miles (74 kilometers) away. When later studies showed the sounds probably weren’t from the jet’s “pingers,” almost a week of search time had already been lost.

“As a consequence we won’t be able to cover the last area,” BEA President Jean-Paul Troadec said last week in an interview at the bureau’s headquarters outside Paris. The Seabed Worker will return to port this week so that its two submarines can be returned to their owner in the U.S., he said.

Air France Flight 447 crashed en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing all 228 people on board. While early findings suggested that the plane’s speed sensors gave false readings when it encountered poor weather, the BEA had said it needed the black boxes in order to establish the crash’s definitive cause.

While Guilldou said a further search hasn’t been ruled out, the probe may now have to rely on other evidence. About 1,000 items of debris and 50 bodies have been recovered.

Third Attempt

This week’s pullback marks the end of a third unsuccessful attempt to locate the cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

With only the wide-body plane’s last-known coordinates to go on, together with a series of automated maintenance messages suggesting an impact about five minutes later, the BEA drew up an initial search area of almost 6,700 square miles.

During the month in which the flight-recorder pingers were expected to transmit, the zone was scanned by U.S. Navy sonars towed behind two tugs and by a French nuclear submarine.

The submarine, the Emeraude, was ill-equipped for detecting high-pitched noise from the black boxes, having been designed to track lower-frequency sounds from enemy vessels, French Navy spokesman Hugues Du Plessis d’Argentre said in an interview.

Only when the recordings were enhanced with the help of Thales SA, the defense-electronics company already involved in the probe as the supplier of the speed sensors, were traces of suspected pinger signals found in data gathered on July 1.

Computer Models

France’s defense ministry went public with the findings on May 6. Days later the Seabed Worker was diverted away from a search zone identified by oceanographers who had used computer models to plot the plane’s likely point of impact based on the position of floating debris and data on sea currents.

The vessel subsequently found no trace of the black boxes in the new zone, and Troadec said he’s not convinced that the Emeraude’s recordings ever came from the pingers.

“They can be confused with a certain number of other systems,” the investigator said in the interview on May 18.

A search using towed sonars alone would have in any case been impossible, with the only two units in the world able to work at the necessary depths already enlisted, Troadec said. Given that the devices can cover no more than 30 square miles a day and that the pingers’ battery life was three or four weeks, 10 would have been needed to scour the area, he said.

“The Emeraude was an additional resource,” Troadec said. “If it hadn’t been there, we probably wouldn’t have been able to cover the zone anyway.”

  • Natalie

    WOW! I can’t believe my eyes in reading this article!

    So disappointing, words fail me…..

  • Simon

    I knew that was gonna happen.What a bunch of clowns.And where are the families?How come they never came to this website or in any other AF447 website?This smells terribly bad.Interesting that all the people that cared about this accident never claimed to be the families of the victims.If one of my family member died in a plane crash I'd be all over the net commenting and stuff.This enough to make me believe that the truth is out there but someone is covering it up well.

  • Claudio

    Obviously.They leave 200 miles of unexplored seabed and they think that's perfectly is business after all and money is the most important thing ever right?Of course.Yeah.Whatever.

  • Gus


    That's a sad end of the third researches attempt.
    Honestly I'm not surprised they don't find the black boxes.
    But I'm surprised they don't find any substential elements of the plane .. who must not be the size of a shoes box.
    Or the BEA theory of sea impact like described is false and instead .. the plane was partially or completely desintegrated in air .. or they had search at the wrong places.
    With no more clues of what we have so far .. this must be the last one (wrong places) the most probable.
    So .. another search campaign must be set.


  • Joanna

    I agree Simon. The saddest part of all from purely an aviation point of view, is that we'll never know for sure, so we can't prevent this from happening again, we can only speculate. Very sad.

  • Chris

    What is so important about the robots' owners needs, that their loan to the search operation cannot be extended for just a couple more weeks.
    Sickening and utterly depressing.

  • horia

    Very sad! I would tend to think as the other commenters here, that: 1) search was wrongly conducted / why do they not cover the last 200 sqm or 2) there are interests of covering facts.
    But, after reading the wikipedia article about this flight, I found a long list of also not recovered flight recorders in the history of the last 60 years. There are even more curious situations than this one, like, e.g., the crash of a plane in amsterdam (on land, not in water!), where flight recorders were also never found (probably because of the extreme mecanical crash situation and the fire that followed).
    So, my impression is that we have rather to deal with a combination of unfavourable details and conditions, in the case of this AF flight.
    The question "why not search further" stilll stays unresponsed, of course.

  • horia

    this is the list of unrecovered flight recorders:

  • Ginger


    This mission was already extended an additional 30 days. My husband has been out there and ran 91 missions on the REMUS over 60+ days. They are upset that this didn't find anything, but in order to find anything, they have to look in the right area. Apparently, this wasn't the right place.

    This has nothing to do with the robot owners' needs, but moreso with the fact that the lease on the ship has ended. The REMUS vehicles that were used on the second go around are owned by WHOI and could have been extended.

    The crew is tired, and needs to come in. The days have been wearing on them. I am sorry this mission wasn't a success…. however, I am very happy that I will be seeing my husband for the first time since March 21. He didn't need to stay out there an additional 30 days, but did so for the sake of the mission's success.

  • Ginger

    They will probably regroup and at some point search the unexplored seabed, but they had to pull back due to the ship's lease being up (not really the vehicles, but the ship is a commissioned boat and needs to be used for another operation). The mission was not a total failure, as it did narrow the search zone significantly with the area the vehicles covered.

    Know that the crew did everything they could to make the mission successful, but certain things are beyond their control. Can't find anything if you aren't searching in the right area of the grid.

  • horia

    Ginger, thank you for this very intimate account, from your first-hand source!
    This kind of accounts bring back credibility to things that happen far-away, that are covered just by very official and impersonal press-releases, etc.
    We should perhaps stop being suspicious as a principle. It seems (at least for me) that mistrust is too often a wrong starting point.

  • Irid

    Ginger, since your husband is involved in that and theres basically nothing at this point on the net, could he provide a map of the area they explored and the area that is still left unexplored?Just to get an idea as info on the net is equal to least we all get a clear idea on whats going on.Doesnt have to be a very detailed map, but a general one really.

  • Claudio

    Yeah there are unrecovered flights recorders of course.But hey theres a huge plane missing here too as well as other 177 bodies….they should at least find that.I dunno who's to blame here, but someone's gotta take the blame for sure.I dont care if its Air France, Bea, Airbus, the French or the Brazilian governement or whoever…but the whole search thing wasnt just done right.From the very very beginning.I trust Ginger when she says the people who where there on the ocean did the best they could.I have no problem in believeing that.But then, I would assume that whoever told them to search in that area didn't really have a clue.And whoever provided the money obviously had to provide much more money than what they did and give much more than 2 Remus and a ship.I mean, obviously.I just hope they won't give up on that yet.They need to find something else.Any other piece of evidence would provide at least one more detail.Any other debris, body, whatever.

  • Ginger

    There are actually only 3 of that type of REMUS in the entire world. Hydroid (the manufactuer of the vehicles) just started building that AUV technology a couple of years ago. One is owned by GEOMAR, which was only lent out for the first half of this mission. The other two are owned by WHOI (who developed the original technology of the REMUS). Not sure who the Sidescan was owned by (that was the other vehicle on there the whole time).

    To put it in perspective, just look on at the area of the seabed that they were working in (it's a mockup someone did in PhotoShop that's on the sidebar). It's quite craggy and mountainous and takes time to explore. They would have covered more area, but got pulled away from their search due to the misinformation they received about the pings in early May.

  • Ginger

    I don't have much in the way of maps of the search area, but the BEA had a map as of May 17th online (which obviously has changed since that date). Not sure if I'd have anything once my husband got home to have him show me how much was covered – areas covered I believe are the pink zones. He has yet to pull into shore, and won't be home in the states until tomorrow afternoon.

  • Claudio

    I know indeed that was some real bad misinformation.And as you said, it stopped them to cover more area.A shame.

  • Claudio

    Interesting!Thanks for the link.But they covered more area on may 16th than they did from 7 to 12 may?Also, it looks like a really really huge area was nevere explored, basically the 80%…that's a lot!If this is what happened, no wonder they didn't find anything they only covered the 20% of it..

  • #535

    I am wondering when we will hear something from the BEA…

  • Rami

    Yes, I too share your hopes of the team regrouping some day. Hopefully with more assistance.

  • kyle dempsey

    the reason the plane crashed was because of the air tubes were blocked by ice. mins later all sistumes becan to fail sending message's to paris airport and the aircraft. the piolets egnored the trottle leaver with could of saved all the passengars and themselfs. the speed failed and they dropped speed and the aircaft came out of the sky. unforcutly killing all on board. the last known postion was 2.12 2 mins before the aircaft had killed all following passengars. still in search for blackboxes they need the blackboxes to rercover the true story of aircaft 447's dissapearence and promblem. this story is as clopse and they can get to eviendece . they need the blackboxes to discover how 447 crassed. it was said the piolets almost saved the passengars but it was to late… now the search has been called over and no one will know how aircaft 447 crashed! byu kyle dempsey. postcode:sy83na, thanks you. i am sorry to all who died onboard and hope they rest in peace. lets all hope this!

  • kyle dempsey

    did anyone watch the program about wat happened? i sure did! lol- laugh out loud

  • Janine

    G’Day. I’m messaging again from Australia. There’s going to be a television special televised here in Melbourne tomorrow night about the Flight. Has anyone else seen it overseas? It’s called, “Air France Flight 447″. I’ll be recording this.

  • Ozy

    Those speed probes are not the whole reason for the crash, any airline pilot will tell you that. I think Air France and the French govt don't want to find the black boxes, because if they do, they know they'll probably have to ground all A330's (and other Airbus models) etc world wide and send Airbus, and a lot of airlines to the cleaners.

  • Jacj

    I'm sorry, but it should not have been left up to the French Navy. The results prove it!

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